Tim Walker. Mental Health Clinician
The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a children’s book and is a great example of using mindfulness and flexible thinking, individually and as a family, to manage anxiety or other challenges.
A young girl, Sophie, and her mum are surprised when a tiger knocks on the door and asks to come in. Naturally this is an unexpected and difficult disruption!
Rather than avoiding or resisting the tiger, the young girl and her mother offer it some tea. In fact, the tiger eats and drinks absolutely everything in the house!
The more food the tiger needs, the more she offers him. The girl and her family make room for the tiger, and finally it leaves. The girl, her mother, and later her father when he gets home after work, and after being told about the tiger and all he did and ate and drank decide to accept the disruption the tiger has bought to their home and normal routine.
Whilst not written about anxiety and mindfulness, this story might be a helpful way to draw similarities between a disruption in our lives and anxiety to young children.
The tiger is representative of all the changes that need to be made to accommodate anxiety and it’s challenges. Rather than pushing the tiger away, pretending like he doesn’t exist, or trying to get rid of him, Sophie and her mother invite the tiger in, sit with him, and problem solve the consequences of his visit.
In the same way, it can be important to help young children understand that all feelings come, and then go again.
Nothing remains forever, not even joy or happiness that we might wish did. Instead, sometimes we need to invite hard or challenging or unwelcome feelings in, so that we can sit with them, and problem solve how to manage.
After all, pushing our feelings away or down never really resolves them.
The book is free here in PDF format:
There is an audiobook version on YouTube, with some related activities for children: http://www.lovemybooks.co.uk/the-tiger-who-came-to-tea
Adults or teenagers interested in how this relates to mindfulness practice might like to read this article about inviting our emotions to tea. https://www.tarabrach.com/inviting-mara-to-tea/
Lynnette Dickinson. Provisional Psychologist
One of the most powerful tools we have for calming our nervous system is something we are doing every day and, mostly, don't even notice.
Our breathing rate is inextricably linked to our autonomic nervous system - shallow, rapid breaths where we unconsciously focus on the inhale is linked to the fight, flight or freeze response or the sympathetic nervous system and long, deep breaths are associated with relax, rest digest response or parasympathetic nervous system.
Fight, flight or freeze is an emergency response and is very useful when we are in danger. In fact, it is a necessary protective response to fear. However, when we live in this state for an indefinite time, we experience this as anxiety and anxiety not only impacts on our capacity to think, learn, organise ourselves and remember, it has long term effects on our health.
The Breathing App helps you reconnect with your breath, slow down your breath and hack your autonomic nervous system.
You can switch your nervous system from fight, flight or freeze to relax, rest and digest in a few breaths.
In addition, you can set the frequency and length of breathing practice to suit your lifestyle, and most importantly, the app brings awareness to the power of your breath.
And there are plenty of breathing apps available, so if this one doesn’t work for you, keep trying until you find one that does.
Your breath is always with you, it is free and can be your ticket to a peaceful mind and a healthy body.
Three long sighs is all you need to start your journey to relax, rest and digest.
You can download the breathing app from the Apple store or Google play here:
Alayne Cummins. Psychologist
Have you been feeling “off” or not like yourself?
Have you struggled with feeling depressed or anxious?
Have you struggled with your body image or feelings about your eating behaviours?
If so, you are not alone and there are many others out there who experience similar feelings.
It can be hard to deal with these difficulties alone, but you don’t have to!
Getting support can be so helpful.
Here are some tips to help you start to feel a bit better:
1. Notice, name and acknowledge your feelings and reactions.
When we push down what we are feeling, it’s like trying to hold in a cough. Usually you hold it in and it gets stronger until it bursts out in a coughing explosion. When a feeling or reaction arises, we can say to ourselves: ‘I notice that I am feeling stressed, my body is telling me that through feeling hot and my heart racing.’
2. Sit with that feeling without trying to make yourself feel bad about it.
You can do this by saying ‘It’s been a hard day and I'm feeling upset, but that’s okay and this will pass’. Try to let the feeling wash over you.
Each and every day that you try to notice your feelings and thoughts, helps you gain a better understanding of yourself.
Self knowledge is so powerful in improving your mental health.
Book in a session with Alayne to learn more about mindfulness and how to incorporate it into your life.
Leanne Smith, Psychologist
Anyone, at any time, anywhere can engage in mindfulness. This is the beauty of
it. Mindfulness is about paying close and undivided attention to one thing, such
as bringing attention to a flavor when eating, noticing the color or curves of a
leaf, how warm water feels on your hands, the weight of your body or the flow of
When we practice mindfulness, we bring our attention to the current moment, without reflecting on the past or looking into the future. It is a time for stillness and calm in the mind.
How can we create more space for mindful moments?
Choose a time to be mindful
Think of a time during the day or night that you can devote to yourself and your
mindful practice. At times it is a tight squeeze to find the space to completely
stop. Ask yourself if you can do this within your daily routine.
Will you use mindfulness while washing the dishes; paying attention to the warm water on
your hands and the motions of the cloth? Will you practice as you drink your
morning coffee or tea; noticing the feel of each sip? Will you practice as you
shower; reflecting on the warmth of the water as it sprinkles onto your feet?
Use the outdoors and nature
Take time out to enjoy a mindful walk close to nature. Sit close to a plant or
grassed area and center your attention to your breath. Observe an indoor plant if
you do not have a garden close by. This doesn’t need to be for long, even 5 or 10
minutes will do.
Consider a modern approach
With a rise in technology and broadening availability of resources through it,
let’s use this to our advantage! Mindfulness can be confidently guided and
practiced with Apps, Podcasts or even through YouTube. These can be used on
your phone, an iPad, computer or other devices.
One of my favorite mindful Podcasts for kids is ‘Peace Out’ written by Chanel
Tsang. For adults, the Bhudify app can be a great guide.
One of our talented Hopscotch and Harmony clinicians, Kessia Ianzano wrote a
great article for Apps to use for mindfulness very recently for Mindful May.
Check it out here.
A great article by our Clinical Psychologist Georgina Psomiadis is also presented
on our blog if you would like some tips on the benefits meditation for you and
your children. Find it here
Include essential oils
Including essential oils safely in your routine can increase the opportunity for
mindful moments. Oils can be diluted into a spray bottle, a roller ball, or into an
It is recommended to consult a trained aromatherapist when considering the use of essential oils for you and your family. Aroma can be the focus point of the mindful moment, noticing how the aroma smells, and the way our body feels when we are in its presence. Small aroma diffusers can be great for the office or car too (Ebay or many other online stores sell these). Using aroma can become a routine and can remind us to take some time each day toenjoy a mindful moment.
By selecting a few of the tips from above, you will be able to find small ways in which you can bring mindfulness into your home and your life. Happy Mindful May everyone!
Kessia Ianzano, Psychologist
There is often a fine line between young athletes playing sport for fun, and the desire to be a successful elite athlete. As a psychologist who has worked with an array of athletes from elite, state and local levels, there are often psychological barriers to an athlete’s success.
Detailed below are 5 effective ways to prepare a young athlete for success.
Control what you can control
Sport generates powerful emotional responses among participants. An athlete’s mood will be influenced by situational factors such as weather conditions, sporting arena and your opponent(s) to name a few. It is how we manage these factors that determines an athlete’s success. By using attentional deployment an athlete will be able to remain focused on their own race/competition. Attentional deployment involves diverting attention away from elements of competition that cannot be controlled by using music or focusing on your breath as a distraction.
Focus on the performance and be present in the moment
A technique used to help an athlete concentrate during sport is called moment-for- moment. This strategy encourages the athlete to focus only on the one task that he/she has to do at that point in that time. This means, not to worry about things that they have already done (successfully or unsuccessfully) and not to worry about things that they have to do in the future.
Believe in yourself
Negative self-talk is an athlete’s own worst enemy. Developing cognitive strategies to reframe unrealistic or maladaptive thought patterns is key to an athlete’s success. Try setting SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and timely) goals in order to maintain positive self-talk and achievable success.
Use Mental Imagery
Developing and rehearsing images of ideal technique, attitudes, and emotional states can create a template for competitive performance. This can be practiced by building mental models for performance. These models are different from achievement goals or affirmations in that they define the process of the performance itself. By visualising your best performance and identifying important aspects, as well as considering your attitude and frame of mind, you are on your way to success.
Learning to relax through breath has several benefits. One benefit is that breathing can be used to reduce stress and tension. In fact, muscular tension is often a result of mental stress. For example, when you are anticipating the start of a race, you are likely unnecessarily contracting unneeded muscles leading to a cumulative fatiguing effect. A simple breathing exercise laying down and being aware of your breath and the rise and fall of your abdomen prior to competition will be very effective in relaxing the mind and body.
By attempting one or all of these tips to prepare for your next competition, you will be on your way to achieving what YOU believe to be success.
Written by Georgina Psomiadis, Clinical Psychologist
When children, adolescents (…or even adults for that matter) have an emotional outburst, tantrum, meltdown… my approach (and many other psychologists at Hopscotch & Harmony) is to use that as an opportunity for emotional growth and a teaching point. What is it that you want your child to learn? This is a ‘Whole-Brain Child’ and ‘No-Drama Discipline’ approach to parenting (details of books below).
The most challenging part of adopting this style of parenting is that in order to regulate your child’s emotions… you, as the parent, need to be able to regulate your own emotions (most of the time!) and be in the present moment. I like to think of it like this: Our frontal lobe (thinking, rational, logical part of the brain) isn’t fully developed until the age of about 25 years old (and of course, our brains continue to change throughout life).
So seemingly minor issues (like not being able to sit in the front seat of the car) can create a huge emotional reaction. So parents need to adopt the role of the frontal lobe, which will help their child’s development of this part of the brain.
This is where regularly practicing formal meditation comes in. Here are just some of the benefits of meditating regularly (for you and your children):
Not to mention other benefits such as increased immunity, better sleep quality, significant pain reduction and less impulsive behaviours.
OK so hopefully I’ve sold you on taking the time to nourish yourself. Wake up 30 minutes earlier if you have to. Meditating has just as a good effect (if not better) than sleep on your brain. Starting is the hardest step but once you start, you won’t want to stop. Make that commitment to yourself.
In term 2, I will be running a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy group for young adolescents who experience anxiety. Please call our clinic on 03 9741 5222 to indicate your interest.
Watch this space as in the near future, I will also be facilitating a mindfulness-based group for adults to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and/or depression.
Guided Meditations are available from:
smilingmind.com.au (also a free app)
Hassed, C. The health benefits of meditation and being mindful. Monash University
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. Second Edition, Random House LCC.
Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D.T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science. 330-932
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2014). No-drama discipline: The whole-brain way to calm the chaos & nurture your child’s developing mind. First edition, Bantam.
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2012). The whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind. Brunswick, VIC: Scribe Publications.